Governor Murphy touts educational investment in new budget plan
Gov. Phil Murphy stopped at a middle school Thursday to say strong public schools are "critical to our economic future." (Courtesy of NJ Governor's Office)
At a middle school in Skillman Thursday, Gov. Phil Murphy touted his budget proposal that includes $20.5 billion total to increase funding for most New Jersey school districts, expand access to preschool, and address the teacher shortage.
“Investing in our public schools is the right thing to do for so many reasons,” Murphy said. “Strong public schools ensure the highly educated and highly skilled workforce that New Jersey is known for, and which is critical to our economic future.”
Murphy introduced his $53.1 billion budget proposal for the 2024 fiscal year on Tuesday, a plan that includes a $1 billion increase in school funding compared to the current year.
Under Murphy’s proposal, schools would see $80 million for capital maintenance, about $250 million for projects in some of the state’s low-income school districts, and a continuation of $420 million for special education aid.
He proposes allocating another $10 million in federal American Rescue Plan funds for tutoring and professional development and $1 million for expanding advanced placement and International Baccalaureate courses. $10 million would go for stipends for student-teachers while they work and study, and another $5 million to waive certification fees. $1 million would be dedicated to training paraprofessionals.
Meanwhile, $40 million would go to new full-day preschool programs and support expanding existing programs. Last year, that amount of money went to more than 40 school districts.
The Murphy administration set a goal to fully fund the state’s school districts by fiscal year 2025. State Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex) said Thursday that Murphy’s budget amounts to 76% of that goal.
Ruiz called the budget plan’s investment in education “extraordinary,” highlighting investments into student mental health and diversifying the teacher workforce, while saying she wants to continue fighting for more money for school construction.
“This budget is the choir of what I’ve been waiting to hear for so long,” she said.
Under Murphy’s plan, 407 school districts would see an increase in state funding, 157 districts would lose funding, and 13 would remain the same. Newark would see the largest increase in aid, at $114 million, while Jersey City schools would see the biggest drop, $51.1 million.
Republican lawmakers have trashed Murphy’s budget plan and his pitch for school funding in particular.
“The state could fully fund schools up to adequacy and allow property taxes to actually be lowered. Neither are a priority for the governor,” Assemblyman John DiMaio (R-Warren), the chamber’s GOP leader, said in a statement.
Assemblyman Alex Sauckie (R-Ocean) called on the governor to stop the “Trenton political games and reckless spending policies.” He pointed to a plan Republicans outlined last week that would increase state aid for schools by $1.2 billion as long as districts lower property taxes dollar for dollar.
Officials at Murphy’s event Thursday — which coincided with Read Across America Day in honor of Dr. Seuss — recalled the teachers who made a difference during their public school education. Sen. Andrew Zwicker (D-Middlesex) shouted out Mrs. Sullivan at Lincoln Elementary School in Englewood, and Murphy said one of his high school teachers, Mr. Allen, had a “profound impact” on his ability to write and communicate.
Assemblywoman Sadaf Jaffer (D-Bergen) said her public school education led her to become a professor at Princeton University. She said she hopes her daughter, who’s in elementary school, sees even more investments in public education.
“I think it’s a revolutionary concept that every child, no matter what their background, deserves that world-class, first-class education, and we’re making those investments,” she said.
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